'Reasonable' transfer budget means Sunderland should challenge Aston Villa for Sam Johnstone

Sunderland manager Simon Grayson in action during the pre season friendly between Hibernian and Sunderland at Easter Road on July 9, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sunderland wanted Sam Johnstone on loan from Manchester United in the summer, but the goalkeeper joined Aston Villa instead.

Sunderland manager Simon Grayson in action during the pre season friendly between Hibernian and Sunderland at Easter Road on July 9, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Another game, another defeat for Sunderland. The pressure on manager Simon Grayson has been ramped up again after The Black Cats suffered a damaging 2-1 loss to Bristol City at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon, meaning they are now just two points off the bottom of the table.

And it’s fair to say goalkeeper Luke Steele didn’t cover himself in glory once again. Questions were asked of the former Blackburn Rovers shot-stopper once again as Bobby Reid opened the scoring for Bristol City midway through the first-half.

It was a goal that perhaps summed up Steele’s lack of confidence. Pinned to his goal line from an opposition corner, the 27-year-old was helpless to prevent the visitors making it 1-0.

Jason Steele of Blackburn looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Blackburn Rovers at iPro Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Derby, England.

With Grayson believing that he has a ‘reasonable’ transfer budget available to him in January, )The Chronicle), however, supporters may be hopeful that a new number one will be one of the manager’s first priorities in the New Year.

And if Sunderland receive any sort of clear indication that Manchester United are willing to sell Sam Johnstone, they must renew their interest. The Mail reported in June that The Black Cats were after the 24-year-old, only for Aston Villa to sign the goalkeeper again on loan after an impressive six-month spell in the Midlands last season.

ClubCall reports that Johnstone may now be ready to leave Old Trafford on a permanent basis with his first-team prospects as bleak as ever. Villa have made it clear that they want the goalkeeper permanently, but United may trigger an extension in his contract ensuring they don’t lose Johnstone on a free in the summer, or a cut-price deal in January.

Villa keeper Sam Johnstone in action  during the Sky Bet Championship match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James' Park on February 20, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

As such, Johnstone could cost as much as £5 million. If Sunderland, however, can ship out a few of their high earners, they should make one of the Championship’s top shot-stoppers a priority.

Beating Aston Villa to his signature, however, may be easier said than done.

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